Supporting Independent Living through COVID-19
As we've all experienced, the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing restrictions have meant huge changes to the way we all live and work. Last week, we took a look at how Connexus staff across the business have had to adapt the way we work, with many office-based staff now working from home and repairs teams gradually returning to work while observing social distancing rules. But perhaps the biggest challenge has been presented by our Independent Living Schemes (ILS), often referred to as ‘sheltered housing’.
Connexus operates 29 Independent Living Schemes across Shropshire and Herefordshire, helping residents to enjoy their home life for as long as possible while enjoying support from our staff, who are on-site every day. The government has identified the over-70s as some of the most vulnerable during this pandemic, with over-70s advised to stay in their homes as much as possible and to avoid outdoor exercise or going to the shops. So, how have our Independent Living staff adapted and been able to continue to provide this vital support to residents?
Under normal circumstances, a huge part of the support that ILS staff provide for residents is simple, everyday contact. This daily contact also helps our staff identify any particularly vulnerable residents with changing needs, helping them to find additional support services. This contact seemed more vital than ever at the start of the UK lockdown period and so we made 1,873 calls to ILS residents over 5 days. The majority of these calls were simple 'wellbeing checks', with their valued revealed in the 507 additional follow-up calls made to address specific support needs.
Our Independent Living Schemes work as part of their wider local communities, with services and community groups all working together to support our tenants. This has become even more important during the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown. Jeremy Hall, Independent Living Co-ordinator at Bishops Castle ILS, Shropshire, has been involved with the local COVID Support Group. At the outset of lockdown, Jeremy met with town councillors, business owners and other prominent local figures, putting together a plan of action for the town's most isolated and vulnerable – including our ILS residents.
Everyday life at our Independent Living Schemes often involves the lively communal areas, which host all kinds of social clubs and support groups. Our Independent Living Coordinators quickly adapted to using Zoom and other video calling services to try and continue this social atmosphere, keeping residents in touch with the community groups they love being a part of.
Michelle Hodnett, Independent Living Coordinator at Ley Gardens, Church Stretton, has been working with the Ley Gardens Social Club Committee to find new ways of supporting residents.
Keeping spirits up and taking care of resident’s mental wellbeing has been a key focus for our Independent Living Coordinators. #ClapForOurCarers has become a weekly activity that both unites residents in showing their support for key workers and helps to keep them feeling a part of the wider community. ILS residents also banded together to celebrate V.E. Day, making decorations at home for socially distanced street parties. Video of our ILC residents clapping and singing even made it into a nationwide billboard campaign thanking the NHS, with tweets about the support work taking place at our Independent Living Schemes making it onto a national #thankyouNHS website.
And what’s one thing guaranteed to lift almost anybody’s spirits? Fish and chips!
From the more serious side of making welfare calls and making sure residents are safe and well, to the lighter-hearted Zoom quizzes and fish and chip deliveries, the message from our Independent Living Co-ordinators to their residents couldn't be clearer: we're adapting and we are still here to support you.